The first Indianapolis 500 was staged in 1911 and Penske won his first Indy 500 race as an owner in 1972 with driver Mark Donohue.
Last month, Penske received the Presidential Medal of Freedom award from President Donald Trump for his business and racing-career successes.
“My passion for racing began at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1951 when I attended the Indianapolis 500 with my father,” Roger Penske said in a statement. “We have so much respect and appreciation for the history and tradition of the Speedway and the sport of IndyCar racing."
Penske has missed only six Indianapolis 500s since he first attended the race, the Associated Press reported. As a team owner, he skipped several races starting in the mid 1990s when the rival Indy Racing League was formed by Tony George, Tony Hulman's grandson, and split from Championship Auto Racing Teams.
Penske's teams, sponsored by Marlboro for years, remained in CART, and CART teams were not welcome at the Indy 500 until the leagues reunited, ending a bitter split that divided race fans and allowed NASCAR to grow and dominate motorsports.
Tony George has overseen the speedway and its various properties along with his sisters and a board of directors. His mother and the family matriarch, Mari Hulman George, daughter of Tony Hulman, died in 2018.
IndyCar and its signature race, the Indy 500, have seen attendance and television ratings improve in recent years.
Penske, who previously owned Michigan International Speedway and California Speedway and runs the Detroit Grand Prix, an IndyCar race, said Monday he hopes to attract a third engine manufacturer, after Honda and Chevrolet, to IndyCar. He also hopes to maintain the speedway's ties with NASCAR, which has seen Brickyard 400 attendance slump in recent years..
“We look around this 1,000 acres and think, ‘Can this be the entertainment capital of the world in Indiana?,'” Penske said. “We’re going to invest capital. We want to grow this.”
Giving up the family business
George choked up as he talked about giving up ownership of the speedway.
“This one is extra-special to us because we’ve grown up around it,” George said after recounting the family’s 170 years in various Indiana businesses. “Our kids and grandkids have done the same.”
He added that the family had “realized we had taken it as far as we can.”
George said he approached Penske after the final race of the season earlier this year and said he wanted to talk to him about “stewardship” of the speedway and IndyCar. Emails led quickly to meetings and due diligence, with no word of the surprise transaction emerging until Monday morning.
Penske said he would walk the entire facility on Tuesday and start meeting with the Hulman team to discuss their top 10 ideas. He raised possibilities such as adding a 24-hour race or a Formula One competition at the speedway but said final decisions would wait.
“This business is not broken,” Penske said. “We’re looking forward to seeing what we can do to make IndyCar even stronger.”
Penske said he would be open to Hulman family members taking a stake in the new business, and George said the family wants to remain involved. The parties expect the deal to close by early January.
Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal signed a three-year deal in 2018 to broadcast the 500 and other IndyCar races, wresting the rights away from Walt Disney Co.’s ABC after several decades.
Melissa Burden, David Phillips and Bloomberg contributed to this report.